My big interview tip is to act like a human being

Your transition away from a technical role, into a business role, will involve an interview process.

You might interview formally or informally. You might interview internally or externally. You might interview in a coffee shop, on a golf course, in an elevator, or around a conference table.

In one form or another, you’ll have to make a case for why you’re the right person for a new role.

No matter the details, my advice is to act like a human being. As someone with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) background, you’re more likely to be seen as a robot. Acting like a human being is a good antidote for this perception.

We live in a buttoned-up world. We expect conformity, not least in the workplace. Job hunting in any form is the same way. Job postings, resumes, (most) cover letters…nothing that tells you much about the actual person applying for the job in question.

We’re all human beings. We are social animals. We crave connection. We have connection in spades with our families. It’s much harder to build similar connection at work. But that kind of engagement is what most people want.

What’s the most reliable way to act like a human being? Be vulnerable. Don’t try to be a superhero. Of course you want to present yourself in the best light. You want to unapologetically articulate your strengths. You wan to explain why the hiring manager will win with you in a particular role.

Complement your strengths with some humanity. Talk about your hobbies. Talk about the book or movie that inspired you. Ask the interviewer about what inspires them. Ask them, given the expectations they had when they took the role they’re in, what has surprised them most, good or bad.

Human beings care about each other. Human beings have aspirations. Human beings have successes and disappointments.

Don’t be a robot. With a STEM background, you’re inclined to put your work front and center, with yourself as background accompaniment. And during a formal project review, that makes sense.

But when you’re pivoting your career, moving off one path and onto another, express your humanity. It’s the most reliable, and most successful, way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

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